Spreading IDEAS with the Next Generation of Leaders
Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse stories with the mission to inspire kids and youth around the world to become entrepreneurs with empathy. This series features interviews of LGBT founders by a character named Spiffy to help young readers observe Pride Month with a renewed commitment to building a more equitable world for all.
Hi everyone, I’m Spiffy, the interplanetary journalist. Today I’m continuing my interviews on Planet Earth with humans that are leading the way to equity and social change. Here’s my conversation with Dan Egol, Executive Director and Co-Founder of Inclusion NextWork.
SPIFFY: Hi Dan, thanks for joining me on this fine day. Tell me, what challenges are you addressing? And what is IDEAS?
Dan: Inclusion NextWork (INW) connects, supports, and elevates the next generation of leaders working to innovate and advance IDEAS (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, Social Justice) in our personal, professional, and civic lives. We do so through leadership and community development programming for Millennial and Gen-Z leaders, thought leadership and research, and consulting services to support organizations in creating IDEAS-fluent cultures.
SPIFFY: Creating fluency in values sure is an innovative approach. What prompted you to start this?
Dan: I agree, Spiffy! Minjon Tholen, Hannah Mack, and I co-founded INW to bridge the talent and network gap for emerging leaders working to advance IDEAS. As former colleagues at Cook Ross, we experienced a gap between our generation’s commitment to these principles and their representation in formal Diversity and Inclusion roles. So INW is a hub for Millennial and Gen-Z leaders from various backgrounds to connect, collaborate, and reimagine how we leverage IDEAS to drive social change.
SPIFFY: How do you make sure that collaboration results in a more equitable world?
Dan: Equity is core to our mission, programming, and culture. It is quite literally the center of our IDEAS model. We advance equity by partnering with emerging leaders and organizations in a spirit of co-creation. Rather than deliver a fully baked solution, we facilitate programs and organizational interventions that center the lived experiences of those most proximate to the issues as co-creators. Together we collaborate in designing experiences and solutions that center IDEAS in its entirety.
SPIFFY: Have you reached any milestones with INW recently?
Dan: INW recently launched IDEAS Roundtables, a virtual peer learning community with Millennial and Gen-Z leaders from more than a dozen states. This program responds to the challenges and opportunities of COVID-induced social distancing and the renewed call for racial justice by creating a space for community, innovation, and collaboration. Together, participants will build their capacity to advance IDEAS, co-create and share resources, and leverage community connections to amplify impact.
SPIFFY: I’m sure I could learn a lot from a program like that, but I’m not sure if I fit into Planet Earth’s ‘Gen Z.’ Have you learned from any failures with INW?
Dan: Don’t worry, we’d be happy to have you. :) Over the past couple of months, INW applied for a number of grants and fellowships for which we were ultimately not selected. We are still grappling with how to clearly convey who we are, why we exist, and how we are making an impact in ways that captivate the attention of potential funders. These disappointing results underscore our need to continue refining our story while also enabling us to be more expansive in how we identify resources needed to sustain our efforts.
SPIFFY: I’m sure you’ll figure it out, failure is part of every success! Have you learned anything unexpected from anyone recently?
Dan: We’re learning constantly. The renewed national focus on racial justice, and in particular the treatment of Black lives, has brought a lot of organizations and individuals to INW seeking guidance and support. In the rush of the moment, it can be really challenging to slow down and be thoughtful. I recently learned of two powerful questions that I love from a fellow IDEAS leader on how to help others to do so: 1) who is this for? and 2) will this action/decision help them?
SPIFFY: Those are powerful questions! Lots to think about, thank you for everything, Dan.
Dan: My pleasure, Spiffy!
Born to a multicultural home with ties to Cuba, Israel, and the Jewish Diaspora, Dan is passionate about building community across difference. He is a graduate of Middlebury College and the Yale School of Management and now serves as the inaugural director of Inclusion NextWork. (Nominated by Reaching Out MBA)
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